Sunday, 1 November 2009

764 NME AWARDS TOUR featuring GLASVEGAS, Friendly Fires, White Lies, Florence And The Machine, Bristol O2 Academy, Saturday 15 February 2009

Finally, after a snowbound false start (The Gaslight Anthem last week, which I couldn't get to, due to the undriveable conditions) the 2009 gig year - which is bound to be a slow one anyway given both my upcoming knee operation and the birth of Rachel's and my second child together - finally got underway with an intriguing NME bill topped by Glasvegas, who swept pretty much all before them at the arse end of 2008 and established themselves as candidates for the first really important - as in, reflecting the horrors of society and affecting social change important - band of this century. Yes, I do believe that.

Unfortunately Rach was getting lumps kicked out of her by the baby so I recruited Rich at short notice. Parked up at 7 after a swift run down, to find the place already really full! Grabbed drinks and a spot on the floor, stage left, before Florence And The Machine came on just after 7.15. A fiery-haired woman with a short metallic dress and a fine line in Siouxsie-esque atonal, slightly off-key but intriguing singing, backed by an anonymous but proficient band (I remember we used to call them "Sleeperblokes"), young Flozzer was a fine performer and focal point, and the music wasn't half bad either, skirting along poppy punk-goth, some absorbing indie rock and even a blues number featuring some pregnant pauses! Nice varied stuff delivered with a confidence and swagger from Floz. The debut album promises much.

White Lies, however, have already had their debut CD "To Lose My Life" out, and hitting No. 1! A fine gloomy Editors-esque slab of dark pseudo-goth early 80's influenced rock, with a slightly stompier, almost funky base akin to the Killers. Live, they were very impressive, their strident anthemic songs taking flight with impressive power and oomph. Painfully young, yet with an intelligence and songcraft to match their rock sensibility, they're another band hitting the ground running. A slight drawback is the lack of variation in their material, but I'm picking holes here. Humble too, as vocalist Harry McVeigh's thanks for their No. 1 album testified to.

Bumped into old friends Kieron and Alison while Friendly Fires peddled an over-elaborate funky sound reminiscent of New Fast Automatic Daffodils, only with fewer memorable tunes, then wandered down to the floor after their set, full of anticipation for Glasvegas, one of the most promising new UK bands for donkey's years. Furthermore, with their often uncomfortable subject matter addressing the more unsavoury aspects of post-millennial society, vocalist James Allan might just be an early candidate for Spokesman Of This Generation. Lord knows it needs one...

The black-clad Glasvegas took the stage at 10 to a squall of feedback, before the pounding upright beat of opener "Geraldine" heralded the first real singalong of the night. The haunting "Lonesome Swan" followed, before "Cheating Heart", the low, slow-burn sorry tale of dual infidelity stunned the crowd into an awed hush. Again, this was a perfect set from a band clearly on the rapid ascendancy, with their sonic template of Mary Chain/ Velvet Underground feedback augmented by black-clad Bunnyesque detached cool, and James Allan's heavily accented, stream of consciousness vocals. New single "Flowers And Football Tops", despite the highly uncomfortable subject matter, was a heart-wrenching highlight, then after the riotous, almost bluebeat "Go Square Go", the set closer "Daddy's Gone" capped the brief 40-minute set perfectly. The Buddy Holly-esque "whoa-oh" refrain embellished this perfect rendition of 2008's best single perfectly, and the by-now traditional singalong preceded the crescendo of a brilliant song, ending a brilliant set. Set-list too, as we set off.

So far, all the signs are that Glasvegas are doing the right things. Let's hope they don't blow it, as they could well be the defining act of this generation, a U2 in the making. I'll be watching very closely!

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